Corn and Chickpea Polenta blends the rich heritage of Italian cuisine with the modern need for healthier dishes and flexible serving options.
A creamy, flavorful dish that makes:
- a great bed for sauce;
- a healthier alternative to French fries;
- a delicious warm bread served straight from the oven, all providing a great source of plant-based protein!
What is Polenta Made From?
If you ask someone what polenta is made from most will answer corn. While today that is a pretty accurate statement, it was not always so.
Prior to the 16th century corn had not been introduced from the Americas to Italy. Polenta dates back as early as the Roman times. It was served as a porridge typically made from ingredients like millet, spelt, or even chickpeas!
I’m always on the lookout for more opportunities to infuse additional plant-based protein into meals. What better way to do that than taking polenta back to its roots by replacing some of the cornmeal with chickpea flour.
To read about all the other great nutrients that chickpeas have to offer check out some of my other mouthwatering chickpea recipes: Roasted Chipotle Chickpeas, Chocolate Chickpea Bark, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars.
Vegan and Gluten-free Polenta
This recipe is so simple to make that I have included three different ways you can make Corn and Chickpea Polenta part of your meal.
To prepare the traditional option (served in a bowl as a porridge or bed for your favorite marinara) you simply add ingredients to a pan and cook. Depending on how high your cooking heat is this will take anywhere from 20-45 minutes.
If you cook it on a higher heat (with a bubble or two every couple of seconds) you will need to stir it more frequently until it begins to pull away from the side of the pan (shown in picture below). This will yield a grainier, toothier polenta which is especially good when paired with sauce.
Good news — with that option your arm workout for the day is done! If you prefer to walk away from the stove every so often, then a medium heat (with a bubble every 5-8 seconds) is the way to go. This will, of course, require more cooking time.
Corn and Chickpea Polenta
The Corn and Chickpea Polenta is very forgiving. If you step away from the stove for too long and it starts to clump, a few minutes of rapid stirring will blend it back together. Just don’t extend your absence so long that it scorches on the bottom. This method will yield a smoother texture as the grains have more time to absorb the liquids.
Speaking of liquids, polenta is traditionally made with water. I am the consummate sucker for all things creamy, so I use half water and half nut milk (cashew), but rice or flax milk may be substituted for a nut-free option. Once the polenta has finished cooking I add a few tablespoons of vegan butter to up the velvety texture. Olive oil could be substituted for this step, but may add a hint of earthiness to the flavor.
To proceed to the baked or fried option you will spread the polenta on a wax paper-covered baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour). Then cut strips, or triangles, or circles — whatever you prefer — and pan fry in olive oil or bake in oven. The pan-fried strips are a great, healthy substitute for French fries and taste fantastic dipped in marinara. The oven baked polenta is so flexible that it can be served plain sprinkled with a little sea salt or topped with your favorite garnish!